It was a summit of modest expectations and modest results for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Warsaw on July 8–9. These results are of an interim nature: building blocks for further decisions at upcoming ministerial meetings, not waiting until the next summit. The Warsaw results do not, as yet, correlate with the growth in Russia’s capacity to threaten, intimidate, or subvert the Alliance generally and its eastern—now “frontline”—member countries in particular.
NATO’s summit in Warsaw on July 8–9 validated the attainment of operational capability by several NATO structures stationed in Romania and Bulgaria. These are staff units, not troop units. They are tasked to organize exercises with the participation of allied troops from within and outside the region. Romania initiated most of these measures and plays a leading role in their implementation.
The Headquarters of the Multinational Division South-East achieved initial operational capability as of July 1. Attached to it are two Force Integration Units (FIU), both of which became fully operational by that same date. A multinational framework brigade headquarters should soon become operational.
All these are permanently stationed staff structures, to coordinate allied troops that would come in and out for exercises. Romania hosts the divisional and the impending brigade headquarters, and serves as the framework nation for both. Romania and Bulgaria host one FIU each.
The divisional headquarters shall oversee the activities of the framework brigade and those of the two FIUs. The divisional and brigade headquarters are tasked with planning and coordinating multinational exercises, “to improve the integrated training of Allied units.” The two FIUs are, essentially, logistical staff units, tasked to plan and facilitate the rapid deployment and reception of Allied forces (NATO Response Forces) for collective defense, if required (www.nato.int, July 9).
The summit defined NATO’s presence in the Black Sea region (Romania and Bulgaria, without mentioning Turkey) as a “tailored” presence, on a lower level than the “enhanced” presence in the Baltic region (see Part One). A divisional and a brigade headquarters and four FIUs are stationed in Poland and the three Baltic States with more ambitious tasks, along with four combat battalions on a continuous rotational presence. Those battalions’ framework nations and some troop-contributing nations—mostly Western ones—have been designated and confirmed at the NATO summit just held.
In the South-East, meanwhile, Bulgaria has committed one infantry battalion (“up to 400 troops”) for exercises to be coordinated by the Romanian-based multinational brigade headquarters. According to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, discussions continue with several countries regarding troop contributions to those exercises. Polish President Andrzej Duda has offered the participation of one Polish company, while Iohannis reciprocated committing one Romanian reinforced company to the Polish-based multinational brigade. According to Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev and other Sofia officials, Bulgaria has not been asked and does not plan at the present stage to contribute troops for NATO activities in the Baltics and Poland (BTA, PAP, July 9; Rompres, July 10).
At his post-summit press conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the “Romanian-Bulgarian brigade” as a “tailored forward presence in the southeast that will provide a framework for extensive training of NATO forces, a multinational presence under this Romanian-Bulgarian brigade” (Nato.int, accessed July 10). The summit’s communiqué, however, speaks of a “multinational brigade” (Nato.int, July 9), while the practical arrangements cast Romania as the host and framework nation.
NATO’s concept for this activity foresees that troops from allied countries would exercise together periodically as part of this framework brigade. Participant units would remain permanently based in their home countries, deploying periodically to the exercise site (in Romania or Bulgaria) for the duration of that multinational activity. The composition, size, frequency, and specific content of exercises are yet to be decided. Multinational exercises are planned to begin in 2017.
The United States will support those activities through its “Combined Joint Enhanced Training Initiative” (CJET) with Romania and Bulgaria. CJET is an element in the United States’ European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), parallel to and coordinated with NATO (Nato.int, July 9, para. 78; see Part One).
In parallel with those multinational exercises, US troops will hold bilateral exercises jointly with Romanian troops, under a US-Romania agreement. According to President Iohannis, US military units will rotate in and out of Romania for this activity, starting in 2017 (Rompres, July 10).
The Warsaw Summit declared the attainment of initial operational capability of the NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD) element based in Deveselu, Romania. This constitutes an Aegis Ashore site, built and financed by the United States, as part of NATO’s anti-missile defense system in Europe. By decision of this summit, at US initiative, the command and control (C2) and political oversight of the site in Romania are being transferred to the NATO alliance. Turkey already hosts a BMD radar at Kürecik, and Poland will be hosting an Aegis Ashore site at Rędzikowo (Nato.int, July 9, para. 56).
President Vladimir Putin and other Moscow officials have recently warned that Russian missiles could target Romania and Poland for hosting those BMD sites (see EDM, May 12, 16). Moscow does not believe that these sites are designed to defend against missiles hypothetically fired from the southeast of NATO’s territory, and are quantitatively insufficient for casting doubt on the credibility of Russia’s nuclear deterrent (Lindleyfrench.blog, April 15). Moscow’s warnings as such lack credibility; instead, they strengthen Romanian and Polish resolve to close ranks with the United States and NATO.
From a Romanian perspective (and, almost certainly, a Polish one) the principal value of these BMD sites is that of keeping US boots on the ground in these two countries. The BMD site in Romania is the sole permanent (non-rotational), operational presence of the United States on the entire South-Eastern flank of NATO (Rompres, July 10).
Although unrelated to Article 5, this form of US military presence (henceforth NATO-flagged—see above) can in itself contribute to deterrence, or to a trip-wire effect in a crisis, at least until NATO provides credible deterrence and defense capabilities. That remains a work in progress after the summit just held.